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Father Owl? Mother Owl?

Posted by Jose Carlos on August 18, 2004

We have got a very curious expression in Portuguese, and only in Portuguese among the Indo-European languages, as far as I know, although its origin is a La Fontaine´s fable.

When a parent is very proud of his or her child, when they think he or she is the most beautiful/handsome, intelligent, kindest and so on child on earth, when they can only speak well of the child and cannot even tolerate anyone suggesting a defect in their offspring, then this parent is called a "pai (father) coruja" or a "mãe (mother) coruja". "Coruja" [KOH-RÓO- ZHAH] is the Portuguese Word for owl. In the fable, an owl asks a certain carnivorous bird to spare her young.

"And how will I recognize your young?" asks the bird.

"Well," says the owl, "they are the most beautiful little birds in the world."

Unfortunately, some time later, the owl finds to her horror that her own nest was ravaged and that her young had been devoured.

She goes to that bird in order to complain:

"You have betrayed me. You have eaten my young."

"How would I know they were yours? In my opinion, they were very, very ugly... They couldnot be yours", the bird tries to apologize.

"Don´t you know that when you love the ugly, it´s because you find them handsome?" returns the owl.

Well, have you got a similar expression in English to describe these parents (most of them, I think) who shut their eyes to their children´s misbehaviour and shortcomings?


Jose Carlos